A Must-Have Screenwriting Book

If you’re a screenwriter or you want to write screenplays, you need this screenwriting book: The Hollywood Standard. Yes, this one book. Why? You can read dozens of screenwriting books and spend months laboring over a great screenplay, but if you don’t read The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style by Christopher Riley, you’re script probably won’t get past those infamous Hollywood readers. Hands down, this is the BEST book I’ve read about script format and style.

When I’m writing, I literally keep this book right next to me. Here’s what makes this a great book…

It doesn’t matter how strong your characters are or if you’ve created the perfect story arc, if your screenplay is not properly formatted, you’re going to be in deep yogurt. Production companies and studios receive tens of thousands of scripts every single year. If you produce shoddy work and don’t care about setting a high professional standard, why should they care about your screenplay?

There is a simpler way. I think this book is best for new and emerging screenwriters, which is why I found The Hollywood Standard to be an exceptional tool to answer the dozens of questions that come up in the writing process. Here’s what I found very helpful…

  1. From the very beginning, Riley starts with the Quick Start Guide that covers fonts, margins, covers, shot headings, capitalization, character names, parenthetical character direction, breaks, and the importance of brevity.
  2. Next, Riley covers “Avoiding a Dozen Deadly Formatting Mistakes.” Right away, I found his Top 12 very helpful.
  3. The book provides countless examples of “Do This…” and “Don’t Do That…” Riley shows you how to correct the most common mistakes.
  4. Riley’s writing style is relaxed, practical and engaging.
  5. It contains up-to-date nuances we see in movies today: How to write in Text Messages, Caller ID, and Email.
  6. The Hollywood Standard is very strong on punctuation, an area many people struggle with. Does a period follow an ellipsis?
  7. From Single-Camera Film Format to Shot Headings to Direction, Dialogue, Transitions, etc…Riley offers concise, practical advice.

I wish I had this book when I started writing scripts. It would have saved me a ton of time and energy. But I love to read and learn, so digging into The Hollywood Standard helped raise my work to a new standard. It simply is a great book!

To learn more about Christopher and Kathy Riley, visit their website at ScriptHollywood. Christopher and Kathy also serve on the faculty of the Act One Program. My writing partner, Ken Straw, and I have used their Script Consulting service. We found it to be invaluable in getting strong, honest feedback on our scripts.

Questions: What book or resources have you found helpful as a screenwriter? What aspects of screenwriting or story development do you find most difficult?

I’d love your comments and questions.

You can also check out My Top 5 Screenwriting Books in the Art, Life & Faith Store.




Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • Carol

    Thank you for this review, Joey! I’m always interested in new resources. I attend a screenwriting class that acts more like a workshop. A group of writers bring their pages and hear critiques from the members. The instructor teaches by using the scripts as examples. I find it very helpful. Also I had a first-time opportunity to be script supervisor for a short film. Watching the director, actors and DP interpret the script helped to better inform my writing as well. Looking forward to reading The Hollywood Standard.

    • http://www.joeyo.org Joey O’Connor

      Hi Carol, what screenwriting class are you a part of? Sounds like a great group. Your writing group and serving as script supervisor are great ways to get feedback and see your script in action. Thanks for you post!

  • http://www.jeffdolan.com Jeff Dolan

    Agreed. Good stuff. Now about the doing part …

  • http://twitter.com/claireshegoes Claire

    I love this book. 

    • http://www.joeyo.org Joey O’Connor

      Hi Claire,
      Thanks for your post…what did you love most about Save the Cat!?

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